A long time ago in a parking lot far away, Ron Howard was offered the job of directing 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace. But the eventual director of Solo: A Star Wars Story turned it down. In a new interview, Howard elaborates exactly what happened, shutting down rumors that he allegedly didn’t like the script.
In a new interview with London magazine Total Film (via Metro UK), Howard said the offer to direct The Phantom Menace was no more than a casual discussion between himself and George Lucas. “I want to clarify that a little,” Howard said, acknowledging the online rumors. “It was a casual conversation in a car park. It was not like I read a script and weighed it carefully. It was a knee-jerk reaction because I immediately felt like George should do it.”
Now, as Howard is the credited director of Solo: A Star Wars Story after taking over from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (21 Jump Street), he says the Star Wars universe is more open to different voices. This made the gig of directing Solo “a more reasonable consideration.”
“Now that other people are broadening the scope and the approach to the movies, it became a more reasonable consideration,” he said.
Though Howard didn’t direct The Phantom Menace, he was one of its most vocal defenders even in 1999. In response to a negative article by Newsweek published prior to the film’s release that, among other things, reported rumors of Jake Lloyd’s performance of Anakin Skywalker, Howard submitted a letter to the magazine for being “shameful.”
“While your ‘Buzz Wars, Episode One’ piece was generally snide and insipid, the pot shot at nine year old Jake Lloyd was downright irresponsible,” read Howard’s letter. “Movies are subject to public scrutiny, yes, but for Newsweek to attack a child’s performance based on rumor and without even having seen the movie is shameful.”
In a bizarre repeat of history, Solo also came under intense speculation regarding behind the scenes trouble. When Lord and Miller exited the film, unfounded rumors pointed to Alden Ehrenreich’s performance: “The lead actor, Alden Ehrenreich, can’t act, and they had a dialogue coach on hand for all of his scenes,” said the anonymous source to ScreenGeek last December. “It’s going to be a car crash.” Now, early reviews say otherwise.
Set decades before the events of A New Hope, Solo stars Alden Ehrenreich as a young Han Solo who joins his mentor Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) in a high-risk smuggling job while evading the prying eyes of the Empire. The film is the second in the new Star Wars anthology series, following 2016’s Rogue One, which are films that tell stories set outside the core episodes.
“The Star Wars universe that we see in Solo was different from anything else we’ve seen in any previous Star Wars movies,” Howard says of Solo. “The Empire controls everything. Everyone is struggling to survive, but we discover this incredible free spirit.”
The film also stars Thandie Newton (Westworld), Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones), Donald Glover (Community, Atlanta), and Paul Bettany (Avengers: Infinity War), who replaced Michael K. Williams in reshoots. Jon Favreau also voices Rio Durant, an alien who plays a key role in Beckett’s crew.
Solo: A Star Wars Story will be released in theaters on May 25.